HAROLD BURSON, LEADING P.R. PRACTITIONER,
TELLS IONA COLLEGE AUDIENCE THAT
“PUBLIC RELATIONS IS GROWING AND WILL CONTINUE TO GROW”
New Rochelle NY, <![endif]-->April 20, 2002<![endif]-->. – Harold Burson, Founder and Chairman of Burson-Marsteller, Inc., one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, told a standing-room-only audience recently at Iona College in New Rochelle that “Public Relations is growing and will continue to grow, even through recessions and economic downturns.”
Mr. Burson’s presentation was part of a two-year-old “Public Relations Pathfinder” Lecture Series sponsored by the Iona College Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. This lecture series has brought a number of the nation’s senior-level public relations experts to Iona to share their experiences and insights with the next generation of public relations practitioners.
Mr. Burson cited the growth of public relations throughout history, saying that the American Revolution and its use of pamphlets, speeches, staged events (the “Boston Tea Party”) and the Declaration of Independence depended on public relations to gain acceptance by the Colonists and motivate them to action.
He described the evolution of the public relations field by the questions top management would ask its public relations counselors:
1. “How do I say it?” – the era from the beginning of the Twentieth Century to the late 1950s, when public relations was called upon in a technician role.
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2. “What do I say? – The era from the early 1960s to the 1990s, when public relations was called upon to provide counsel to management as well as hands-on communication services.
3. “What do I do?” – the current era, when public relations counselors increasingly have a seat at the top management table and advise CEOs and management’s on what to do to gain and keep public acceptance.
When asked about the negative image the public relations field has among the news media, Mr. Burson said, “The industry has to go out of its way to show everyone, including the media, what they do.” He added that while journalists may say they do not like the public relations field, they can all cite certain public relations people that do a good job and help them in reporting the news. This is similar to the public opinion polls that cite negative public opinions about the Congress, but positive opinions about individual Congressmen.
Mr. Burson also cited the importance of global communications for All-American institutions, and noted that Burson-Marsteller has always had an extensive overseas presence.
Iona’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) provides students with many opportunities to learn about the public relations profession via lectures, workshops and conferences, as well as student internships to provide actual work experience in the field. Its “Public Relations Pathfinder” Lecture Series has been cited as an outstanding student professional development activity and is being adopted by PRSSA chapters nationwide.
PRSSA has over 7,000 student members in some 226 chapters across the country, and is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest professional society for the public relations field with some 20,000 members.
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Addendum (Jack O’Dwyer):
1. What do you think about six big ad agencies controlling 60% of all ads and employing about 20,000 PR people?
Mr. Burson said that these agencies are so big and have so many employees that they are able control much of the market do to their large size. He added that since they are big, they need a lot of employees in all areas and that is why they have employed so many PR practitioners. He believes that Advertising and PR has grown so rapidly that they have a greater need for employees than previously.
2. What do you think about integrated marketing, and what is the role of PR in integrated marketing?
Mr. Burson believes that integrated marketing provides a framework for allowing each disciplines (Advertising, PR, and Marketing) skills to be integrated into a project so they have the best of all worlds. He also believes that the role of PR in this is to do PR at its best just like Advertising’s role is to use Advertising to its fullest.